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If Free Will Doesn't Exist, Neither Does Water

Gregg D. Caruso, ed., Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility (Lexington Books 2013)

Univ. of San Francisco Law Research Paper No. 2014-13

41 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2014 Last revised: 28 May 2014

Manuel R. Vargas

Philosophy Department, UCSD

Date Written: 2013

Abstract

In recent years, a number of prominent scientists (e.g., Haggard, Montague, Bargh, Cohen and Greene, Cashmore, etc.) have argued that their particular disciplines, or science in general, shows the non-existence of free will. These claims are frequently demonstrably false or too hasty, given the way any attempt to settle the issue requires substantive commitments about disputed philosophical issues. This essay focuses on three recurring difficulties for scientific free will skeptics. First, despite frequent appeals to determinism in the work of scientists, it is unclear that determinism is more than a theoretical aspiration in many scientific fields. Second, scientific skeptics too quickly dismiss compatibilism as a definitional gambit, rather than a position that has to be addressed before skepticism carries the day. Third, the powers that constitute free will are plausibly high-level, multiply realizable properties that resist straightforward reduction to the properties that figure in many sciences. The upshot is that those who are attracted to scientific skepticism about free will are better served by adopting some form of revisionism about free will.

Keywords: free will, science, jurisprudence, philosophy of law

Suggested Citation

Vargas, Manuel R., If Free Will Doesn't Exist, Neither Does Water (2013). Gregg D. Caruso, ed., Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility (Lexington Books 2013); Univ. of San Francisco Law Research Paper No. 2014-13. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2383577

Manuel R. Vargas (Contact Author)

Philosophy Department, UCSD ( email )

CA
United States

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